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News & Articles Archive 2015

Manitoba Blue Cross Wins Contact Centre Award

November 2015

Congratulations to our Customer Services team on taking home three awards at the 2015 Manitoba Excellence in Customer Contact Achievement awards gala!

Our team received two individual awards which included:

  • Leader of the Year award for Ritchie deGuzman
  • Representative of the Year award for Janey McKay

We also received an Organizational Award for Staff Satisfaction for a Small Contact Centre.

Since 2010 alone, our Customer Services team has received an outstanding 20 awards from the Manitoba Contact Centre Association. We're proud of our staff and their commitment to exceptional customer service. Well done!

Remember Your Health Spending Account Claims Deadlines

December 2015

With the flurry of activity this time of year, it's easy to forget about Health Spending Account deadlines. For those with a Health Spending Account (HSA) that runs January 1 to December 31, remember to submit all of your 2015 expenses right away to receive the maximum benefit for your plan.

Members can submit paper claims through the mail or on-site at Manitoba Blue Cross. Members can also register for mybluecross®, allowing for easy online claims submission and simple reimbursement through direct deposit.

Here, members can also access plan details and applicable HSA information. This includes which kind of HSA plan members may have (On Request or Automatic), verifying how many credits are available to claim and what has already been claimed in 2015. Members with On Request can apply their HSA credits online towards applicable claims. Members with Automatic HSA will have HSA claims paid automatically once their minimum trigger is reached or a payment on core benefits is made.

  • Some key things to keep in mind:

    Health expenses must be considered tax deductible by the Canada Revenue Agency in order to be eligible for claims through your Health Spending Account. For a list of eligible service providers by province, visit the CRA website. To see a list of items and services, click here.

    Also, it's important that any dependents or spouses on the same plans are identified and their names exactly match our records, (is it John Smith or Johnathan Smith). If the names do not match or are not in our records, it will take time to verify and may delay your claim.

  • For those with Automatic HSA

    Any unpaid balances from eligible health or dental claims will automatically be forwarded and paid from available credits. Eligible expenses not covered under another plan can be submitted on an HSA Claim form for reimbursement.

  • For those with On Request HSA

    Any unpaid balances from eligible health or dental claims can be requested using an HSA claim form or submitted online with mybluecross® for health and vision claims. Eligible expenses not covered under another plan can be submitted on an HSA Claim form for reimbursement.

    • Did you know?

      You can request any remaining balance be paid through your HSA account with your health or dental claim. Just mark the box to request HSA either on the paper form or online. Requesting your HSA balance when you submit the original claim makes it easier at the end of the year!

  • Coordination of Benefits

    If you are coordinating with another carrier, ensure you submit an explanation of benefits to Manitoba Blue Cross for proper coordination of benefits. There is a particular order to how claims are processed when coordinating benefits through another carrier. You may wish to review all HSA plan deadlines or submit your explanation of benefits as soon as possible to maximize your benefits.

    If both you and your spouse/partner have Manitoba Blue Cross coverage, the Coordination of Benefits can be easier. In order to ensure credits from previous years are used first, make sure that all claims for the 2015 year are submitted for processing before the new benefit year.

De-Stress The Halls - How To Deck The Season With More Cheer

December 2015

The holidays are a busy time filled with gatherings, gift-giving, food and drink. The competition for your time is fierce; causing stress and reducing your chances to unwind a little from the frantic pace. But we have a choice in how we handle the season and there are different ways to cope. By letting go of expectations, living in the moment and accepting the imperfection that is destined to happen, this could be the brightest time of the year.

  • Change tradition up.

    Try having a healthy holiday (sweet potatoes, lean turkey with no skin and lots of vegetables) or doing a gift exchange this year instead of the same old thing. A potluck dinner will help alleviate some of the stress and financial hardship of throwing a big dinner for the whole family, not to mention add some interesting flavours to the dinner table. Being flexible always makes dealing with stressful situations easier. Try to live in the moment rather than allowing fears to interrupt your fun, like worrying about next week's turkey dinner and ruining tonight's carolling outing.

  • Start earlier.

    Sometimes easier said than done, doing a little bit earlier on- like seasonal baking or shopping- might help eliminate much of the pressure of getting everything done in time. Shopping online, giving donations in someone's name instead of gifts, and other simpler options may take the burden out of the season and still give lots of joy. Many people already have plenty and the gift of giving can be passed on to a charity instead. Prepping the meal can be done days in advance and using slow cookers will help ease the use of the stove which often overheats the house.

  • Let it out.

    Many people who've lost loved ones or had trying times in their personal life can feel that difficulty more acutely during the holidays. There's no reason to not find a space and have a good cry or a loud scream and just let that emotion out. Trying to sit down to a lively gathering when you're feeling pain is really tough. Finding a healthy outlet for your thoughts and feelings, a good friend to help pick up your mood, or even calling a support line like Manitoba Blue Cross's Employee Assistance Centre* is important if you are hurting. Allow yourself the space to feel.

    *Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance coverage can contact us here for support.

  • Don't take it personally.

    This time of year is stressful for everyone else, too. Try to accept family and those you encounter with an ounce of empathy and take their attitudes with a grain of salt. It's your choice how you react to things and packing the emotional burden of a cranky driver who stole your perfect parking spot at the mall and carrying it with you all day doesn't do anyone any good. Children are susceptible to picking up on your stress and spouses or partners don't deserve to become emotional punching bags. Take a deep breath and focus on the positive, because the holidays will be over before you know it.

  • Laugh.

    Don't forget to laugh at the silly inconveniences and crack jokes about them. Laughter is often the best medicine.

Manitoba Blue Cross is Named a Top 25 Employer in the Province

November 23, 2015

Manitoba Blue Cross is honoured to be named one of Manitoba's Top 25 Employers for the seventh time.

Manitoba's Top 25 Employers is an annual competition sponsored by Mediacorp and the Winnipeg Free Press and organized by the editors of Canada's Top 100 Employers. This special designation recognizes the employers that lead their industries in offering exceptional places to work in Manitoba.

Organizations are compared to others in their field to determine who offers the most progressive and forward-thinking programs for their employees. Manitoba Blue Cross has been noted in particular for our exemplary facilities and our efforts to accommodate a greater work-life balance.

Click here to read the Winnipeg Free Press Article.

Click here to see our awards.

November is CPR Awareness Month

November 2015

When a person's heart stops beating, there is a very limited amount of time to act. CPR training is a life-saving skill that may come in use helping someone you know, possibly even someone you love. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Association states that 85 per cent of cardiac arrests occur in homes or public places.

Cardiac arrest is a sudden, unexpected loss of heart function due to electrical disruption of the heartbeat. This can be attributed to a heart attack or a variety of other possible causes. When someone goes into cardiac arrest, their breathing becomes abnormal or stops altogether, causing them to lose consciousness. If someone is in cardiac arrest, CPR and an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can help.

Many hockey rinks, shopping malls and businesses are installing AEDs in their buildings. These devices monitor a heart's rhythm and are capable of delivering an electrical shock, if necessary. CPR courses are teaching people how the different types of easy-to-use AED devices work. Combined with CPR, using an AED can increase the likelihood of survival by 75 per cent. However, the chance of survival decreases seven to 10 per cent for every minute without defibrillation.

If you haven't taken a CPR course, or haven't recertified in the last two years, St. John's Ambulance and other certified CPR training facilities can provide life-saving instruction. Courses are offered frequently and many workplaces sponsor staff who would like to recertify or learn basic CPR techniques.

Diabetes Rates are on the Rise in Canada and Around the World

November 2015

On November 14, the world recognizes diabetes as a serious chronic disease affecting nine per cent of the world's population over the age of 18. By 2035, it's expected that the number of diabetics will increase to 592 million worldwide.

Diabetes research has some unique Canadian ties. Here are some facts on the disease:

  • There are several kinds of Diabetes

    Diabetes is a chronic condition in which insulin cannot be adequately produced or metabolized causing glucose or sugar levels in the blood to climb to dangerous levels, if unchecked. There are several kinds: Type 1 (formerly Juvenile Diabetes), Type 2 (formerly Late-Onset Diabetes) and Gestational Diabetes.

  • One in nine Canadians have Diabetes

    The International Diabetes Federation states that one in nine Canadians has diabetes, one of the highest incidences in the world. Manitoba, specifically, has the highest rate of diabetes in the prairies, which is likely to rise in the future. From the ten year period between 1998/1999 and 2008/2009, the rate of diabetes rose by 70 per cent overall in Canada, with increased cases in every age group.

  • Roughly 20 per cent of Diabetes cases are undiagnosed

    According to a report from the Public Health Agency of Canada , roughly 20 per cent of diabetes cases are undiagnosed. Roughly 2.4 million diagnosed Canadians live with the disease.

  • It was a Canadian research team that discovered how to isolate Insulin

    It was a Canadian research team (Fredrick Banting, Charles Best, Bertram Collip and John MacLeod) that discovered how to isolate insulin. In 1922, the first diabetic was treated. Until that time, diabetes was ultimately a death sentence. Banting and MacLeod won a Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1923.

  • High health risks

    Health risks are clear for Canadians living with diabetes, as it greatly increases the chance of hospitalization for cardiovascular and renal disease as well as lower limb amputations.

  • The cost and stress are high on the health care system

    The cost and stress on the health care system is great. Diabetes patients have double or triple the number of doctor's visits, more frequent and lengthier hospital stays than those without the disease. The estimated health care costs are three to four times greater than those without the disease.

  • Although certain risk factors cannot be avoided, here are some ways to prevent or help postpone Type 2 diabetes:

    • Don't smoke.

    • Achieve a healthy weight and maintain it.

    • Be physically active.

    • Limit your intake of fat and sugar.

    • Eat regular, balanced meals that include the four food groups from Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating.

    • Keep your cholesterol and other blood fats within the target level.

    • Maintain a normal blood pressure.

Get Your Flu Shot and Stay Healthy This Cold and Flu Season

October 2015

With the arrival of autumn and the falling leaves comes the return of the dreaded cold and flu season. Protect yourself and vulnerable family members by getting the flu shot. Available from health care providers for free in Manitoba, the flu shot reduces your chances of developing the virus and the likelihood of passing the illness on to others. Some people with the greatest risk of serious or adverse symptoms and complications are:

  • children six months to four years old

  • elders over 65 years old, especially those in care homes

  • people with chronic health issues

  • pregnant women

  • hospital workers

The 2015/16 flu shot has been designed to help combat the particularly virulent strain of flu last year (H3N2). There were approximately 600 deaths due to influenza and 8,000 hospitalizations in Canada in the 2014/2015 season- up significantly from the past three years. The same strain of virus is still circulating and this year's flu shot will help provide some immunity. When there is a good match between the strains of flu in the vaccine and what is circulating in the population, an individual can have 60 per cent to 80 per cent immunity. Should an immunized person still 'catch' the flu, it's likely to be a much milder case.

Check with your doctor's office, QuickCare Clinic, ACCESS Centre, Local public health office or nursing station to find information on flu shot availability.

Get It Checked - Don't Become a Cancer Statistic

October 2015

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, it's expected that two out of five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. Roughly, 2,700 Manitobans died of the disease in 2014. With these statistics, it's clear that cancer affects all of us in some way.

To recognize the fight of the estimated 191,300 Canadians diagnosed yearly and the 29 per cent of Canadian deaths each year to the disease, here are some facts about cancer:

  • People diagnosed with cancer today have a better chance of survival than they did just over a decade ago. Statistics show that 63 per cent of Canadians now survive cancer, compared to 56 per cent in the 1990s.

  • Top lifestyle risk factors for developing cancer include smoking, drinking alcohol and obesity.

  • Skin cancer is the most common form of the disease in Canada. Although within our province breast cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women and prostate cancer in men, lung cancer ultimately claims the lives of more Manitobans.

  • Prostate, bladder, skin, uterine or breast cancer patients, if detected early, have at least an 80% chance of being disease-free five years after diagnosis.

Five fast facts for Arthritis Awareness Month

September 8, 2015

Did you know that about 4.6 million Canadians suffer from arthritis? September is arthritis awareness month and it is one of the most common chronic afflictions in the country. Here are some interesting facts you might not know about arthritis or the "the inflammation of joints":

  • Women are affected more than men

    Roughly two thirds of Canadian arthritis sufferers are women. In Manitoba, women aged 45 years and over are more likely to report the condition. Overall, 24 per cent of women and 14 per cent of men are afflicted in the province.

  • Arthritis is actually many different diseases

    Rheumatoid arthritis and gout deal with joint and surrounding soft tissue while osteoarthritis involves cartilage inflammation. Fibromyalgia and lupis include tendons and muscles that become inflamed near joints. Psoriatic arthritis appears to be an abnormal immune response where the body attacks the synovial membrane surrounding joints. There are over 100 different kinds of arthritis which can leave those diagnosed in chronic pain.

  • It's among the leading causes of disability in Canada

    In Manitoba, it's one of the top three for men and top two causes of disability for women. While 20 per cent of Manitobans with arthritis report a reduction of activity at work or school, 61 per cent report a reduction of activity at home. In fact, 25 per cent of arthritis sufferers between the ages of 20-54 are not in the Manitoba labour force at all. This is significantly higher than those suffering other chronic conditions or without any chronic pain, (roughly 12 and 10 per cent, respectively). Nine per cent of Manitobans between 20-64 years are permanently unable to work because of their disease, compared to two per cent of those suffering from other chronic conditions.

  • Over half of arthritis sufferers are of working age

    Arthritis is not a disease of the old, as some people may think. Over half of those with arthritis are 64 years old and younger – still of age to work. According to the Arthritis Society's 2013 Arthritis in Manitoba report, 47 per cent say that their arthritis pain prevents them from participating in activities. Roughly 18 per cent of arthritis sufferers between 45-64 report having poor or fair mental health and over 40 per cent of this age group perceive life as 'quite a bit' to 'extremely' stressful. Everyone has stress in their lives and can experience mental health concerns, but for arthritis sufferers, the chronic pain adds to the difficulties they experience. Those with arthritis report having a significantly higher rate of mood and anxiety disorders than those without a chronic condition.

  • The cost to our economy is an estimated $33 billion a year nationally, through health care and indirect costs like lost work productivity

    About 13 per cent of arthritis patients have been hospitalized in the previous year compared to five per cent of those without a chronic condition. Nearly 54 per cent of arthritis sufferers have had four or more consultations with a primary care physician and almost 45 per cent report visiting a specialist in the past year compared to 35 and 19 per cent of those living with another chronic condition or without any chronic condition at all, respectively. There are also the costs due to missed work, disability claims and a variety of other factors related to arthritis.

Be Sight Savvy for Back to School – Eye examinations will help your kids make the grade

September 4, 2015

It's back to school for kids and with all the supplies and clothes to buy it's easy to be a little short-sighted on some other important things to pack in their bag. Vision is a big part of classroom success for many children, so consider scheduling an eye exam for your kids before they start hitting the books.

In Manitoba, students take a vision screening test in Kindergarten and every year ending in an odd number from Grade 1 to Grade 11. The test is meant to screen students who might require an eye exam and refer their parent to seek out an optometrist or ophthalmologist to determine if vision correction is necessary and to get a prescription for their child. Each school schedules these screenings independently, so check with your child's school for details.

Not only should younger students learning to read have their eyes checked, so should teenagers. The teen years are typically when nearsightedness develops, so this is a good time for another eye exam. Especially since nearsightedness, or myopia, can affect the ability to see street signs, it might be a wise for a student driver to take an eye exam before taking to the road. Eye exams are free for those under 19 years of age and children can be retested about every two years.

Many vision providers direct bill to Manitoba Blue Cross so you don't have to pay upfront and then submit a claim for reimbursement. If you do need to submit a claim, we've made it easy with our online claims submission (paper submission is still accepted). Simply log into mybluecross® at www.mb.bluecross.ca and select My Claims, then Submit a Claim.

Within mybluecross® you can also:

  • Find out what is included in your vision coverage

  • Confirm your maximum coverage, how much is available, and the benefit period

Heatwave - How to keep cool in the heat

August 17, 2015

Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, but overexposure to heat can make the fun-factor sizzle out. Heat exhaustion can start with unpleasant side effects like nausea and dizziness but if left unchecked, it can quickly escalate into something much worse. If your core temperature keeps climbing to 40°C or higher, heat stroke can set in. Potentially fatal, heat stroke is a dangerous but avoidable health issue, so make sure to be smart and stay cool.

When the weather heats up, your body is designed to try and cool itself down. Here are common signs that your body is warning you to chill out:

  • Sweating

    This is your body's natural defence against overheating. Small beads of perspiration form on the skin diverting heat away from your core while outside air cools the small droplets in your pores, cooling you down.

  • Flushed skin

    Getting red in the face? Your blood is rushing to the surface circulating heat away from your core and refreshing it with the cooler temperature outside of your body.

Hydrating, finding a cool spot (air conditioned environment), and balancing the levels of salt in your system will help you return to a safe temperature. Normal core body temperature is between 37°C and 38°C; however the body can only warm up three degrees before you're entering dangerous territory. Your sweat can alter or stop, meaning that your body is using up its water reserves. Blood may begin to clot and chemical processes in your body can change, spelling disaster for internal organs like your brain.

If you are travelling to another part of the world or somewhere in Canada with a serious heat wave, keep these symptoms in mind. It takes some time for the body to acclimatize, so be careful of over-exertion. If your core temperature spikes, you become fatigued or cognitively impaired, or you have goose bumps or a tingling sensation on your skin, get cooled down and hydrated right away.

To protect yourself and loved ones — particularly children and older adults most at risk of getting heat exhaustion or heat stroke — here are some tips to keep the heat off this summer:

  • Choose light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing to allow maximum air circulation next to your skin.
  • On a hot day, damp clothing or cloths will help to bring down the surface temperature of your skin. Run through a sprinkler, apply a cold compress or run your hands under cool water to help bring down the heat.
  • Move fans so they are in front of open windows to increase the flow of cooler air.
  • Take a lukewarm shower (not cold) to help your body temperature drop.
  • If these suggestions are not possible, try fanning your face rather than other parts of your body to more effectively help you to cool down.

Spare yourself the barbecue blues - stay food safe!

August 17, 2015

There's nothing like a good barbecue in the summertime, however it shouldn't include an upset stomach. Food can't stay out of the fridge for long before "invisible" bacteria starts to flourish in the heat. Common villains of the backyard roast are E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter; all of which can be mostly eliminated with proper cooking and safe food handling techniques.

Here are a few helpful reminders to help keep things fresh and fun:

  • Defrost food in the fridge, not on the counter.

    Meat should marinade in the fridge as leaving it out overnight is dangerous. Make sure that meat is well defrosted before putting it on the grill so that it cooks evenly. If you defrost meat in the microwave, make sure it hits the grill straight away.

  • Clean your barbecue thoroughly twice a year and after every use.

    Heating up the grill helps kill some bacteria and scraping it with a brush will remove excess food, but a good scrub is necessary every so often. One report from the UK found that there were more germs on the barbecue than on the toilet in the homes that were tested. Whether this is true or not, little tips like using a cover, keeping a spray bottle with soap and water nearby and pulling out the grill grate and soaking it can reduce the amount of bacteria found around the barbecue.

  • When eating outside, keep disposable or reusable cloths nearby, specifically for outside use.

    It will make clean up easy and wiping down the table and barbecue painless.

  • Keep food near the grill when it's done cooking to keep it warm.

    Tin foil is great at helping preserve heat and keeping the flies at bay. Make a "tent" to place over steaks while finishing up the chicken burgers. Save it and reuse the foil to cover the leftover meat.

  • Burgers need to be thoroughly cooked to be considered safe to eat.

    The recommended temperature is 71°C throughout the burger to avoid foodborne illness. You can't tell by colour alone if it's cooked and burgers are likely culprits for contamination around the barbecue. Never reuse the same plate raw burgers were on for cooked food!

  • Keep food that needs to be refrigerated as cold as possible.

    Anything requiring refrigeration should not be kept out longer than an hour at room temperature. One way to prevent spoilage is to use smaller amounts of condiments - see the life hack below.

Ingenious Barbecue Life Hack - use a muffin tin to hold shredded cheese and condiments like ketchup, mustard and relish. Combining these food items creates space on the table, and is a convenient way to pass them around. Items in the tin can also be kept simultaneously cool by simply placing the tin over a casserole dish filled with ice. Discard anything left unused and leave the tub of sour cream in the fridge so it can't spoil!

Enjoy the Water Safely - National Drowning Prevention Week is July 19-25

July 3, 2015

Before diving into aquatic activities this summer, take a minute to cool down and think about water safety. The icy reality is that although water activities are fun, they can be dangerous, too. National Drowning Prevention Week is July 19-25 and the statistics show that the vast majority of drowning deaths are preventable. Here are three tips that can help save lives:

  • Remember to always wear a floatation device such as a PFD when out on the water boating, canoeing, kayaking etc.
  • Don't drink while operating a watercraft or swim while intoxicated.
  • If you have an outdoor pool or a hot tub, be sure you have an adequate fence surrounding your backyard. Gates should be secured at all times so that little ones can't get in unsupervised.

Although these suggestions are laws or bylaws in Winnipeg and Brandon, simply following the rules can greatly decrease the chance of drowning.

Here are some quick facts about drowning from Lifesaving Society Manitoba:

  • Statistically, men and people between the ages of 20-24 have the highest water-related fatality rates.
  • Swimming and boating were the top recreational activities in which drowning occurred in 2012 (the last year official statistics are available). Between 2008 and 2012, over half of all drowning fatalities occurred on a weekend.
  • In a whopping 92 per cent of boating deaths, it was known that the victim wasn't wearing a PFD or life saving device. And in 80 per cent of watercraft-related fatalities, alcohol was a factor.
  • In Canada, over half of all backyard drownings involve children under the age of five. Lack of supervision, open gates or improper fences around backyard pools are some key reasons children come to harm. Remember, your backyard pool should have a fence around it and the gate should be closed at all times. Never leave a child unattended in the pool.

Not all drownings happen during a recreational activity. Motor vehicle accidents in which a car or truck lands in a ditch or river are also common causes of water-related deaths. Roughly two-thirds of all drowning deaths involving a regular daily activity fall into this category. Drive carefully and buckle up. A seatbelt cutter and window breaking all-in-one device can save a life and cost less than $20, available at most hardware stores.

Stay safe this summer and follow the rules. Remember to wear a PFD or other lifesaving floatation device while on the water and don't drink while operating any kind of watercraft or vehicle. Keep alert near the water and pay close attention to children. Summer is a time for fun activities and, with a few simple safety precautions, the fun can continue all season long.

Returning to School? Pack your Health Coverage!

July 3 , 2015

As the summer continues to sizzle, it might be tough to think about heading back to school. Whether you're getting ready to go to university out of province or planning to study within Manitoba, post-secondary education is a big step. Just like school supplies, you'll need to pack your supplementary health coverage to make it to the top of the class.

Manitoba students attending university within Canada can apply to use their Manitoba Health card out of province. Students complete a Manitoba Health form and provide a letter from the out of province accredited institution in order to receive their Term Registration Certificate. Students must have their Term Certificate before leaving Manitoba to ensure their coverage is active.

However, provincial health plans do not include coverage for Vision, Extended Health, Prescription Drugs or Dental. Most schools require students to provide proof of or register for supplementary health coverage during full course registration.

If you are staying in Manitoba and already have health coverage through family or work, you can often opt out of the plan offered by the school or students' union. Check with your school for details such as the deadline for opting out and requirements for proof of coverage. Keep in mind that most universities and colleges will automatically enroll all full-time students into the school's coverage plan and charges will be bundled with the rest of your tuition and fees for the year.

GenX is a plan offered by Manitoba Blue Cross and is designed with students and people under 30 in mind. If you are looking at options for health coverage, click here for more information on our individual plans like GenX.

Heads Up, June is Brain Injury Awareness Month

June 22, 2015

If you've played a sport or taken a serious tumble and hit your head, you've heard about concussions. As June is Brain Injury Awareness Month, here's a quick rundown on concussions to keep in mind while actively enjoying the summer weather.

A concussion is a 'TBI' or a Traumatic Brain Injury, typically caused by a blow, jolt or bump to the head that can lead to bruising and swelling of the brain, torn blood vessels and nerve damage. Concussions can range from mild to severe and change the way your brain functions. However, there is often no physical evidence of a concussion, so it's up to the injured individual to let others know they've hurt their head.

Many people may try to 'play through the pain' or believe that they just 'bumped their head' and won't seek out medical attention. Some of the worst brain injuries are secondary concussions, which are more likely to happen if you return to physical activity before letting your brain heal.

Evidence is emerging that concussions can have serious long-term effects. One study has found some former Montreal Canadiens hockey players had abnormal brain activity years after suffering a concussion. (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/256518.php)

Concussion symptoms can vary between different people and different kinds of impacts. Most people don't lose consciousness when getting concussed. Symptoms can include:

  • Amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or fuzzy vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Nausea
  • Feeling sluggish, foggy, out-of-sorts or groggy
  • Slurring words or speech issues
  • Feeling unusually irritable or any other strange or inappropriate emotion (laughing or crying)
  • Concentration or memory problems (forgetting what happened before or after getting hit, meeting times, assignments)
  • Slowed reaction time

If you think yourself or someone has sustained a concussion, you should:

  • Tell someone and seek out a medical diagnosis from a coach or preferably a medical professional at a hospital right away. Do not return to the game! Concussions can lead to serious health issues like blood clots in the brain, seizures and even death. Do not continue any sport or activity, as re-injury is potentially life-threatening.
  • After getting a professional opinion, get lots of rest. That means no strenuous physical or mental tasks like reading, walking, running and definitely, no sports.
  • Slowly incorporate some mild exercise and thinking activities once the symptoms disappear, ('Return to Activity' as part of the Concussion Protocol). Recuperating can take days or weeks and rushing recovery is very dangerous with a brain injury.

For more information on concussions or brain injuries visit Centres for Disease Control and Prevention or The Brain Injury Association of Canada. Parents can click here for a link to an educational video for kids.

Scam Alert

June 4, 2015

A counterfeit cheque scam is currently circulating the province. If you receive a solicitation from Medavie Blue Cross, please report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll free at 1.888.495.8501. Do not wire money or attempt to cash the enclosed cheque. Medavie has confirmed this solicitation is fraudulent. Under no circumstance would a Blue Cross plan mail a cheque and ask that an individual deposit it in order to purchase an item or service, with the incentive of keeping the remainder of the amount as payment for services.

Claiming Extended Health Benefits - Some things to know

March 2015

Massage therapy and nutritional counselling are just a few of the extended health benefits available to many Manitoba Blue Cross members. Coverage varies from plan to plan, but offering in-demand supplementary health and wellness benefits is part of providing a high standard of service to our clients and members.

So whether you are planning to book an appointment with a chiropractor or a take a trip to the podiatrist, we have a few tips and tools that will help you find out if you have it covered.

Check your plan first.

Be informed on exactly what is included in your benefit plan. Visit mybluecross or check your booklet for details on a particular benefit. Look for:

  • Maximum coverage amounts

    Benefits may have a maximum dollar amount available in a certain timeframe (ex. $x max/year). Some benefit periods run from January to December as a calendar year, other benefit periods are 12 months in length beginning from a month other than January, and other benefits may have a cycle beginning from the first use. Check your coverage first to confirm what's available to you as well as any spouse or dependents.

  • Any exclusions or exceptions

    Check your plan to see if the benefit you wish to use has any exclusions or exceptions to the type of product, service or service provider. Often services cannot be provided by an immediate family member, for example.

You may need to see a doctor for a prescription first.

Some plans may require a doctor's prescription that will have to be submitted with the claim in order for the service(s) to be covered. Check your plan details to find out if this applies - massage therapy is a common example.

Ensure the benefit service provider meets Manitoba Blue Cross requirements.

Some extended health service providers are required to meet specific criteria Manitoba Blue Cross has set out for that particular service. Check your benefits plan or log into mybluecross and simply click the benefit's link to view the specific details.

Massage therapists, for example, are required to possess professional liability insurance, have a diploma from a recognized massage therapy school (minimum of 2,200 hours training), have a valid CPR certificate and be registered with Manitoba Blue Cross (if they are operating in Manitoba).

MBC Congratulates Team Carruthers on Winning Their Way to the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier!

February 2015

As a proud sponsor of Team Carruthers, Manitoba Blue Cross congratulates the foursome as they move on to represent Manitoba at the Tim Hortons Brier! Team Carruthers defeated Mike McEwen at the Safeway Championship on Sunday, February 8 to earn their spot on the ice at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.

Although it isn't his first trip to the Tim Hortons Brier, this is Reid Carruthers' first time as skip at the Canadian Men's Curling Championship. Carruthers is joined by teammates Braeden Moskowy as third, second Derek Samagalski and lead Colin Hodgson.

The Tim Hortons Brier runs February 28 to March 8, with roughly two games played each day by Manitoba. The winner in Calgary will represent Canada at the Ford World's Men Championship in Halifax this year.

Best of luck, Team Carruthers!

Manitoba Adds 94 Drugs to the Provincial Formulary

January 19, 2015

Effective January 19, 2015, the Government of Manitoba has expanded its list of eligible drugs under the Pharmacare drug benefit program, making it financially easier for some Manitobans to access the medicine they need.

The province has added nearly 100 drugs to the Manitoba Drug Benefits and Interchangeability Formulary, including 80 generic drugs. These drugs are used to treat a variety of diseases and illnesses such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, hepatitis C and schizophrenia.

Pharmacare is a drug benefit program for any Manitoban whose income is affected by high prescription drugs costs. Coverage is based on income to ensure assistance is provided to those who need it most. The Pharmacare program covers 100 per cent of eligible drug costs once an individual's deductible has been reached. The deductible is an annual amount that individuals are required to pay towards their prescription drug costs.

Drug costs paid through your Manitoba Blue Cross plan count towards your deductible.

Prevent Your Winter Vacation from Becoming a 'Staycation'

January 19, 2015

Travel plans and winter weather don't always mix. Whether you are driving, flying or a combination of the two, poor weather can put a big damper on your plans. Delayed or cancelled flights, missed connections and difficult driving conditions can lead to strained nerves.

So what do you do when a winter storm blows in on the eve of your long-awaited trip to the tropics? Here's a list of a few things to keep in mind as you plan your travel this season, and how to minimize the effects of 'old man winter' on your trip.

  • Check your flights regularly.

    In addition to providing updates online, many airlines have created phone apps with real-time information to help passengers navigate their way through busy travel seasons. From booking or rescheduling a flight, to simplifying the check-in process and providing a digital boarding pass, apps are extremely useful for those vacationers staying within reach of Wi-Fi.

    If you are flying out of Winnipeg Richardson International Airport, check out their easy-to-use website, which is optimized for mobile use and provides up-to-date information on arrivals and departures.

  • Pack light.

    Many airlines have started to charge you for checking an extra bag. Save space and consider purchasing things you need at your destination or leaving things behind for resort staff. Rolling pants and shirts rather than laying them flat in a suitcase is a great trick to conserve space.

  • Plan ahead and make sure you have plenty of time.

    Whether driving or flying, make sure that you give yourself a little extra time to account for poor traffic or weather. Many Manitobans fly out of Grand Forks, ND. If this is your plan, consider driving down the day before and spending the night so you don't find yourself delayed at the border or facing a closed highway.

  • Make sure there's a winter roadside kit in your car.

    Road trips can be fun, but poor weather can make them stressful. Reassure yourself and your loved ones by having an emergency roadside kit decked out with everything you need to survive a winter storm. This might include jumper cables, a spare tire or donut, a shovel, cat litter to sand the slippery ground and get traction if you slide out, a blanket, candles, a lighter, a cell phone and charger, winter coats and clothing, and the number of a tow truck company that is along your route.

  • Winterize your vehicle.

    An oil change before a road trip is a must, but in winter there are a few more factors to consider. Check your tire pressure and fluids before setting out on a winter drive.

  • It's as simple as double-checking.

    Be sure that you have everything you need before leaving home, especially your passport and printed copy of your itinerary. It's best to make a list a few days before that you can check off before departing.

  • Make sure you're protected with travel health coverage.

    Manitoba Health only covers a portion of medical expenses that are incurred outside of Manitoba, and the cost of medical treatment in another country can be extremely high. Manitoba Blue Cross offers a number of different coverage options to suit your needs. Find out what's right for you here.

7 Hot Tips to Help You 'Butt Out'

January 13, 2015

Have you been seriously thinking about quitting smoking, maybe as part of a New Year's resolution? With Smoking Cessation Week rolling around this January 18 to 24, there's never been a better time to kick the habit and resolve to a smoke-free 2015.

Quitting smoking is not easy, but it is possible. There are several different products available and a number of methods to help you 'butt out'. The Manitoba Lung Association is a great place to find local programs and resources to help you in your efforts. You can also find a number of valuable tools, including a Stop Smoking Plan, on our My Good Health site - an online health resource available to all Manitoba Blue Cross members.

If you are ready to make your habit go up in smoke, here are seven tips to help you get started:

  • Make a plan!

    What do you need and how will you quit? By creating lists like, 'what are the benefits of quitting' and 'what situations cause you to smoke' you will have a better understanding of what you are trying to achieve and what are some potential pitfalls to avoid. Don't forget to include a fun list of all the things you can do instead of smoking.

  • Set a date.

    Pick a day that works for you, but choose a date and stick to it. Make sure it doesn't coincide with a stressful social commitment or deadline driven work duties. Weekends are often best, as you can fill up your schedule with activities that distract you from lighting up.

  • Avoid or remove smoking triggers from your life.

    If you are a social smoker or a pack-a-day smoker, there are certain triggers that people associate with smoking. Try eliminating them or replacing them with something healthy. Instead of taking a smoke break at work, try taking a longer lunch that includes going to the gym.

  • Pat yourself on the back.

    No matter where you are in your journey to quit smoking, don't forget to give yourself the kudos you deserve for realizing you want to break the habit and that you are taking steps to get there. Recognize your accomplishments, no matter how small they seem. Every step is a step closer to your goal.

  • Use your lungs for exercise.

    One way to stub out your habit is to change your routine, like starting a new exercise regime as you quit smoking. Not only will it help heal your lungs, but it will help ease tension and release some endorphins - which will make you feel good.

  • Reward yourself

    You're doing the best job you can, so congratulate yourself with something special. A lots of 'quitters' will take the money they save from not buying a pack and put it into a savings account for things like vacations or other bigger ticket items that, over time, will be a lot more achievable without the expensive habit of smoking.

  • Talk to friends and family.

    Find someone whom you can trust to help coach you as you quit smoking. That person can support you and keep you on target to meet your goals in a helpful and encouraging way.

As always, it's a good idea to consult your doctor or pharmacist when you decide to quit smoking. Your doctor can also provide you with a prescription for smoking cessation medications if necessary.

Start 2015 with a Healthy Routine!

January 5, 2015

The belly-bulging holiday feasts are over and January marks the start of a New Year. Many people have promised to 'hit the weights' or live a healthier lifestyle, but where to begin?

More than getting a membership and heading to the gym, healthy living is about long-term plans and routine. Whether it's losing an inch or two from your middle, feeling stronger or just simply becoming more active, it's important to set an obtainable goal.

My Good Health, an online health resource available exclusively to Manitoba Blue Cross mybluecross® members, is a great place to start. This website is full of health advice, tips from professionals and useful tools like the Health Risk Assessment.

Complete the assessment (all information is kept anonymous and confidential) and you'll receive back a personalized health profile that's an excellent tool to help guide the changes you want to make. Review your score, learn about your health risks and create action plans for healthier living.

The site also has a variety of health resources like articles, videos, and tools. There are many good tips for more seasoned health enthusiasts; however it's important to think in the long-term and stay safe. Few things can discourage a work out like an overworked muscle and a serious injury or health issue can sideline you for good. Take the time to make sure you are working out for your personal best and listen to your body.

Diet is also a major component for health. 'Diet' doesn't necessarily mean cutting down; you may just need to change what you eat. The average sedentary adult male is recommended to consume about 2,300 calories a day according to the Canada Food Guide while a mild to moderately active male is closer to 2,600 calories. The best thing you can do for overall health is to work towards eating better. Check out the nutrition link under the healthy living tab in My Good Health for information on good food choices.

Food planning throughout the week is a great way to make sure that your healthy eating stays on track for the long term. One great trick is to prepare some grilled chicken on Sunday night and save it for multiple good meals like salad or stir-fry throughout the week. Packing a lunch every day is also a good way to keep healthy. Check out the Canada Food Guide for more details on healthy eating.

Whether your goal is to bulk up or slim down, it takes time for any changes to happen to your body. Sticking with it might not be easy, but it's been said that doing anything consistently for three weeks will help you build a routine. Keep yourself engaged with little rewards for your health and fitness commitment. Buying a new headband for yoga class or a blender for smoothies are great ways to treat yourself for positive lifestyle changes.

For more good ideas on health and wellness, check out My Good Health - available to Manitoba Blue Cross members through mybluecross®.

A Gift of Caring for the Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba

January 5, 2015

Two years ago, our Client Administration Department decided to forego a holiday gift exchange and instead make a donation to the Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba.

Since then, the spirit has spread and both our Information Service Centre and our Customer Service Centre have joined in the fun. This year, Manitoba Blue Cross employees raised over $3,300 for the Christmas for Kids campaign. This monetary donation, along with a large box of goodie bags to be distributed to the children at the hospital, was presented on December 18.

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